Upgrade of Australian naval fleet to create 15,000 jobs
The Australian12:00AM May 16, 2017
An overhaul of Australia’s naval fleet will create up to 15,000 jobs, with the government pouring $1.3 billion into domestic shipyards to help deliver new combat vessels, including 12 submarines and nine frigates.
The naval ship building plan, to be released by Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, sets out how the government will deliver the $90bn continuous ship building program — the largest upgrade to the Australian navy outside of wartime.
The blueprint projects an expansion in the domestic naval shipbuilding workforce to 5200 construction jobs by the late 2020s, with indirect jobs increasing to more than 10,000 over the same period.
The investment is expected to counter the so-called “valley of death” in Australian shipbuilding — a reference to the declining number of jobs in the sector as the air warfare destroyer project heads towards completion.
Jobs in the nation’s shipyards are predicted to bottom out at about 800 within the next three years before rising, with the government’s shipbuilding plan confirming that the next round of construction will commence in 2020 with the frigates.
Construction on the first of the new submarines is likely to start in 2022, with the boats entering into service in the early 2030s.
Construction work on the fleet is expected to sustain 1100 jobs directly through the build and a further 1700 jobs in the supply chain.
Mr Pyne will also commit $1.3bn towards the construction of cranes, heavy lift transportation, welding stations and storage facilities at the Osborne naval shipyard in South Australia as well as the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia.
The facelift will help the nation’s shipyards deliver the upgrade to Australia’s defence naval power envisioned in last year’s white paper.
“Modern shipbuilding facilities and processes will play an important role in the transformation of Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry,” Mr Pyne said. “The naval shipbuilding workforce is expected to grow to around 5200 workers by the mid to late 2020s, with more than double this number of workers in sustainment activities and throughout supply chains.”
A study by the RAND Corporation, released in April 2015, found the Australian shipbuilding industry was in a “precarious and uncertain state” with the cost of shipbuilding being 30-40 per cent greater than in the US.
The government plan will help navigate industry through the challenges involved in delivering the navy’s future defence assets.
Already the government has committed to 12 offshore patrol vessels, nine future frigates and 12 submarines, as well as a new shipbuilding college in Adelaide to ensure there is a local workforce to deliver the program.
Director of the defence and strategy program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Andrew Davies, told The Australian the timeframe for the beginning of construction on the nine future frigates looked “uncomfortable”.
“A later start would be better for the frigates because it gives you time to do all the engineering,’’ he said. “The future frigate will have a radar, hull and combat system combination that the world has never seen before.”
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